Champion jumper Bashboy will have four rivals at Sandown on Sunday when he attempts to become the first horse in history to win the Grand National Steeplechase for the third time.
Bashboy has been allocated the top-weight of 74.5 kilograms in the Grand National Steeplechase, but is still set to start the race as clear favourite after scoring impressive victories at his past two starts.
The Perugino gelding was sensationally withdrawn by jockey Steven Pateman during the running of the Mosstrooper Steeplechase (3600m) and was found to be suffering from an irregular heart rate after the race, but he returned to winning form with dominant victories in the Thackeray Steeplechase (3470m) at Warrnambool on June 29 and the Crisp Steeplechase (3900m) at Sandown on July 13.
Trainer Ciaron Maher admits that Bashboy faces a tough assignment with so much weight on his back in the Grand National Steeplechase, but he won’t rule out the ten-year-old who he believes is racing in career best form.
“I suppose it’s the third time around and you can’t keep winning without upping the penalty,” Maher told AAP.
“It’s certainly a task for him with horses like Sea King and Wells in there.
Wells is probably weighted to win the race.
“It’s definitely an ask for him, but it’s probably the best flat form and jumping form he’s been in.
“I’m rapt with him so he’ll be there having a go.”
Wells has been a consistent performer in Hurdle events this season, finishing in the placings in the Brendan Drechsler Hurdle (3200m), Kevin Lafferty Hurdle (3470m) and Grand National Hurdle (3900m), but will be making his steeplechase debut in the Grand National Steeplechase.
Sea King finished ahead of Wells in the Kevin Lafferty Hurdle and Grand National Hurdle and the New Zealand galloper has been allocated 69.5 kilograms by Racing Victoria handicappers.
The Shinko King gelding will also be making his steeplechase debut, but he has more jumps racing experience than any other horse in the field.
Maythehorsebemagic won the Mosstrooper Steeplechase following the withdrawal of Bashboy, but was not match for his rival I the Crisp Steeplechase, while Patrick Payne-trained Krase won the Australian Steeplechase (3400m) at Sandown in May and lost a plate when he finished fifth behind Bashboy in the Crisp Steeplechase.
The Grand National Steeplechase will be run after the JJ Houlahan Hurdle (3400m) at Sandown on Sunday.